Ahly get chance to avenge CAF Champions League humiliation
Ahly were trounced 5-1 on aggregate by Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa in the quarter-finals last year, and the clubs will meet at the same stage this season.
The 5-0 first-leg loss was the heaviest suffered by the Cairo Red Devils in an international competition and the biggest since a 6-0 defeat by Zamalek in the 1942 Egyptian Cup final.
“They performed like amateurs,” said pundit and former Ahly star Wael Gomaa at the time. “The team showed no personality‚ no spirit‚ no leadership. It was an utter shambles.”
One difference this season is that Ahly will enjoy home advantage first, on February 28 or 29 in Cairo, with the return match in Pretoria the following weekend.
Another change is that Uruguayan Martin Lasarte no longer coaches Ahly with Swiss Rene Weiler now in charge of the club that has been African champions a record eight times.
Former South Africa forward and coach Pitso Mosimane has steered Sundowns since 2012 and led them to their lone Champions League title four years ago.
Ahly and Sundowns have reached the knockout stage with identical records of seven victories, two draws and one loss from qualifying and group matches.
The Egyptians fell away to Etoile Sahel of Tunisia in the group stage while the South Africans went down in their first qualifier, against AS Otoho in Congo Brazzaville.
Esperance of Tunisia and Zamalek of Egypt meet in Qatar on February 14 for the CAF Super Cup, an annual match between the Champions League and Confederation Cup trophy-holders.
Then, just two weeks later, the Blood and Gold and White Knights clash again, this time in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final in Cairo.
Esperance are seeking a third straight title — a feat not even the great 2005-2008 Ahly team of Essam el Hadary, Gomaa, Mohamed Aboutrika, Mohamed Barakat and Emad Moteab could achieve.
Moroccan city Casablanca provide two contenders with Raja facing TP Mazembe of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Wydad meeting Etoile Sahel.
All eight survivors have won the competition, led by Ahly with eight successes, including two back-to-back triumphs.
Al Ahly (EGY) v Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA)
Raja Casablanca (MAR) v TP Mazembe (COD)
Zamalek (EGY) v Esperance (TUN, holders)
Wydad Casablanca (MAR) v Etoile Sahel (TUN)
First legs: Feb 28/29, second: Mar 6/7
Raja/Mazembe v Zamalek/Esperance
Wydad/Etoile v Ahly/Sundowns
First legs: May 1/2, second: May 8/9
Note: final will be played on May 29 at a neutral venue to be announced